Another one bites the dust. And this one, in particular, was a name that Alex Anthopoulos has reportedly chased for quite some time. Or, at least, who we’ve been passing along rumours about for probably three years, as today we learned that Matt Garza has signed with the Milwaukee Brewers for four years and $52-million.
Ken Rosenthal had it first, tweeting that a physical is still pending, which could be a thing, but probably won’t be.
Like all of the remaining free agents, there were warts on Garza. His medicals, in particular, have been rumoured to be fairly ugly, and over the last three seasons he’s only made 12 more starts than Brandon Morrow, who certain Jays fans seem to think is made of breakaway glass (even though that’s, y’know, dumb). You don’t hear him get a lot of high marks for his off-field stuff, either, but when Garza’s been healthy, he’s certainly been effective, posting sub-4.00 ERAs in seven straight seasons.
The ERA stuff doesn’t exactly translate into great advanced numbers all the time, though. He was worth 2.2 wins, per FanGraphs this year, and 1.1 the year before. Baseball Reference has him at just 1.2 and 1.4 wins for 2012 and 2013, though their calculations like his 2011 season a bit more (2.9) — and that’s not nearly as much as the FIP-based FanGraphs one did (4.9).
Ervin Santana and Ubaldo Jimenez, who we still all believe the Jays are eyeing (as they damn well should be), have been much healthier over their careers and have been much better more recently. Aaaaand they’ve also been much worse. By now, I’m sure you know the story. (If you don’t, I wrote about it here — just scroll past the Tanaka pipe dreaming).
We’ve never really thought the Jays were going to go as hard after Garza as they would the more durable, and deeply-discounted (thanks to draft pick compensation) pair, and now we’re hopefully seeing why Alex Anthopoulos has been playing an infuriatingly frustrating waiting game this winter. Just $13-million per year for four years is the best Garza could do, with no draft pick tied to him? It’s actually exactly almost exactly in line with the results of the contract crowdsourcing project at FanGraphs – they had Garza getting four years and $58.7-million, and had Jimenez and Santana not getting even that much — but hardly the kind of big number we were hearing rumoured on some of these guys earlier in the off-season. And as much as the medicals certainly must have made teams queasy here, surely there must be about as much concern about Ubaldo’s year-and-a-half in the lost-velocity/unrepeatable-mechanics wilderness, and Santana’s 39-home-runs-in-a-damn-pitcher’s-park disaster of 2012.
Could a GM justify giving even that much to either of those two, and giving up a draft pick, when they wouldn’t on Garza? Maybe. And maybe they’ll find some added leverage with one less pitcher on the market. But I have a hard time believing it, especially if we’re talking about a team who’d have to give up a first-rounder — which, of course, the Jays won’t. Anthopoulos then, is perhaps exactly where we’ve thought all along that he wanted to be, with the market playing out exactly as he expected.
I’m not sure if fans ought to jump for joy because the team seems poised to get a pitcher on a contract far less than his original expectations — Jeff Passan tweets that as recently as a week ago Santana’s price had gone down to just a $60-million, four-year deal, which at this point seems highly unlikely — but if that’s what it’s going to take for the Jays to just sign a damn guy and not stand pat or blow more prospect capital trying for one, or maybe two last humps with this uncertain roster, you kinda can’t help but not.
Now they’ve just got to go out and actually do it. (And then add a second baseman, too.)